Rare White Rhino Dies in Kenya
The 34-year-old animal was found dead October 17 in his enclosure in Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy, possibly from natural causes, the reserve said in a statement. White rhinos are thought to be able to live up to 40 or 50 years. An autopsy is under way, but officials are certain poachers did not kill Suni, as the animal was monitored around the clock. (See “1,000+ Rhinos Poached in 2013: Highest in Modern History.”)
The death of the rare creature, which had not fathered any offspring, leaves only six northern white rhinos left on Earth, including just one male of that subspecies. The southern white rhino, a related subspecies, is considered near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Born at the Dvůr Králové Zoo in the Czech Republic, Suni had been an emblem of hope: He was one of four of the world’s eight remaining northern rhinos sent to the Kenyan conservancy in 2009 as part of a last-ditch effort to save the critically endangered subspecies.
So far, it hasn’t worked. “It’s a shame the subspecies got to that point—that’s the worst-case scenario in trying to bring back a subspecies,” said Matthew Lewis, senior program officer for African species conservation at WWF.